Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 11, 2013

New Deep Purple… Now What?! (Going Deeper About BritMetal’s Big 3)

Deep Purple in 2004. From left to right: Roger...

Deep Purple in 2004 (and still, in 2013). From left to right: Roger Glover, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Don Airey and Steve Morse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deep Purple… bringing the heavy back with a new LP, called Now What?!

I spotted this release on Spotify last week, just got around to a quick listen today. It’s their first album of new material since 2005. I’m not going so far as to say they matter anymore, but these fellas can still play great, and write an interesting hooky melody much more easily than Black Sabbath ever did. (Sabbath also has a new record out that I also previewed at the MT blog… main reason I bring them up…)

As for Led Zeppelin, the third member of that oft-cited Big 3 of Seventies British hard rock, there’s little doubt they’re still the kings of the hill. But a Zep reunion is not likely, as Plant is asked regularly and opts out regularly. So for musical time traveling, new  Deep Purple and Sabbath will have to do. On the other hand, Led Zeppelin recently got a big Lincoln Center honor from the Prez, and they have worked with drummer Jason Bonham a bit in the past decade, for special events. So who am I to say what’s impossible, or who is passe anymore?

Back to Deep Purple, though: The only original member left is drummer Ian Paice. But many of the other current players are long-time members, and one –guitarist Steve Morse (formerly of Dixie Dregs and Kansas)– is a bona-fide cult hero as a composer/soloist among a certain sector of instrumental rock fans and guitar aficionados. The vocalist Ian Gillan is still in fine voice as well, and can howl when he needs to. I’ve been told Gillan is the band’s chief lyricist, along with Roger Glover. It’s a tight band that has been touring plenty for years now, even without any “hits”, and it shows on this record.

As for the music itself: That organ work on Hell to Pay, the 4th cut, makes me feel like no time has passed at all since this band’s heyday. Also makes me wonder if Emerson, Lake and Palmer are going to be challenging these guys to a geriatric Battle of the Bands someday. Hell to Pay’s got a big chorus, moves at a great pace. In fact, Don Airey’s electric piano and organ work throughout the album –sometimes prog rock, sometimes bluesy, often incredibly fleet-fingered– is probably its biggest asset, as it most closely ties the current music to their past style and the work of late great co-founder Jon Lord. Airey himself ties this band to Black Sabbath as well, having served in both bands.

I like the spirit and music of the song Weirdistan, but I wish they’d gotten more overtly political with the lyric instead of just vague and strange. But as Mick Jagger once sang… it’s only rock n roll. Uncommon Man is another favorite from this current set — with the line “It’s good to be king” serving as a sort of classic heavy-metal medieval or fantasy reference of the kind so common to progressive rock and hard rock of the previous generation (or more accurately, 2-3 generations ago! … from when I was about three years old, just for the record). Also, in defense of this band’s timelessness, my current pastor Matt S. is only about 27, and he’s an avowed Deep Purple fan. So some people and styles just age well, and others don’t (for instance, have you heard Rod Stewart’s work in the past decade? feh!)

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear younger bands talking about this DP record some, as the conversation between the likes of Black Keys, Jack White, and/or Foo Fighters with their musical heroes is an interesting echo chamber I have noted nowadays.

To read up on Deep Purple in all its iterations, outrageous ups and downs, line-up changes, and other bands it has spawned or influenced, Wikipedia is a fine place to start. And Spotify, if you’ve got it, is the “easy” listening option… though this record is neither easy nor hard on the ears. It’s a nice in-between throwback, at a time when old news seems to be coming ’round again.

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  1. Oh my god! Your review can’t be taken too serious when you don’t know that Ian Gillan is the singer (as well as lyric writer with Glover).

    • Thanks, Donna.
      I stand corrected, and have corrected the actual names in the post. I dashed this off too quick, didn’t double-check my names as I should.

      As for being taken seriously… that seldom happens anyway, so I might have to give up on that one, and am now just feebly talking to hear the sound of my own voice.

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